Walmart is now offering customers a 30-day free trial of its $49-a-year, 2-day ShippingPass package delivery service, which launched last year as it beefs up a campaign to take on the two-day Amazon Prime shipping service of one of its major competitors.
The free 30-day trial will be offered to new customers, while existing customers will get 30 days of free ShippingPass service added to their existing annual accounts before renewals are billed.
"ShippingPass is about half the price of similar programs out there at just $49 a year, and customers who are using it, love it," wrote Fernando Madeira, president and CEO of Walmart.com US, in a post on the company's blog.
The $49 dig is, of course, aimed at Amazon Prime, which charges $99 for a year of 2-day shipping for its customers.
Walmart Shipping Pass customers also get free returns online or in Walmart stores, and are not subject to minimum order totals. Amazon has minimum order amounts for customers who don't have Prime accounts. Amazon customers without Prime accounts must have at least $25 of books in an order or at least $49 of other eligible items to get free shipping.
Walmart began testing its ShippingPass service in the summer of 2015 as it went head to head with Amazon in the ecommerce shipping race for customers, according to an earlier eWEEK story. The service began as an invitation-only test and was expanded later in the year. A Walmart spokesman told eWEEK at the time that the shipping service was one of several delivery projects the company was testing, which also included experiments with online grocery shopping that featured pickup at stores or delivery to customers.
Amazon has been offering its subscription-based two-day Prime delivery service for about a decade, which lets customers order a huge number of products with an unlimited number of deliveries for $99 a year. Originally the service was $79. Not all products are available from Amazon using Prime, but most key products are included.
The competition in the online retail market is fierce, and fast, all-in-one shipping deals can be a big attraction for customers and a way to build brand loyalty. If a customer can order all he or she wants from one vendor and get no-extra-charge fast delivery as well, then the customer is more likely to keep buying from that company.
Other companies have also been experimenting with package delivery deals, including Google with its still-expanding one-day metro delivery services around the United States.
In January 2014, Google began testing its fledgling Google Shopping Express same-day ordering and delivery service in the Los Angeles suburb of Santa Monica, where it was initially open only to Google employees. The pilot test in Santa Monica follows a program that launched in March 2013 in San Francisco's Bay Area. In September 2015, Google expanded its overnight delivery of nonperishable groceries, home goods, small appliances, toys and other items to consumers in six states across the Midwest, according to an earlier eWEEK story. An additional 25 million people were covered by the program in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin.
Both Amazon and Walmart are also continuing to test and develop projects that will eventually allow them to make package deliveries using unmanned drones. Federal regulations still do not permit such deliveries, but the FAA continues to work on rules that will one day allow drone deliveries in the U.S.